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Case Study: Register Your Company's Domain Name

A world famous chef is planning to open a new restaurant in a few months. This restaurant is going to quickly become one of the top restaurants (probably in the world). Out of curiosity, I checked, and the .com domain name of the exact restaurant name is unregistered.
Here’s the kicker… The restaurant group bought a different (shortened) domain name for the restaurant with a hyphen in the domain name. Guess what. The non-hyphenated name is unregistered.
Ordinarily, I would consider being a good samaritan and grab both names to give to them at no cost. The problem is that if I do this and can’t get in touch with the proper person, I could be accused of cybersquatting, as the restaurant name is not a generic term. Sometimes it’s just not worth taking a chance.
The moral of this is a reminder to register the .com domain name of your business before telling anyone the name!

The Lowell Project: Lowell.com Logo Unveiled

Lowell.com LogoAn important aspect of the Lowell.com website is the look and feel. When a visitor navigates to Lowell.com, the logo is one of the first things that will be noticed. When we were working on the logo concept, the goal was to create something simple but meaningful to the city’s rich history and current resurgence.
For those who aren’t aware, Lowell, Massachusetts is sometimes known as the “Mill City,” as it was one of the first and largest textile manufacturing cities in US history. The mill depicted in the logo is part of the Boott Cotton Mills, a recognized historic landmark and one of Lowell’s famous mills. The Boott Cotton Mills is now a museum, luxury condominium/loft/apartment building and office building. I believe the logo is symbolic of the great history of the city, and how it is becoming a hip place to live and work (especially in the artist community).
I am proud to publicly debut our new logo, and I look forward to the date when our site goes live sometime in mid-February 2008.

The Lowell Project: Determining a Revenue Stream

In order to “pay the bills,” it is important that we determine how we will generate revenue for Lowell.com. Of course there will be home page advertising banners, but there need to be other ways to generate revenue throughout the site. After reviewing many other geographic websites and consulting with several people in the industry, I’ve determined that there are a few ways to generate revenue:
1. Sell a limited number of business listings in each section of the website (restaurants, shops, lawyers…etc). Each section would have 10 premium listings available, and each listing would link to a full page on the website where the advertiser can provide a business description, upload pictures, offer discounts or give other information. Because the number of listings are limited, the price would be high for each.
2. List ALL Lowell businesses (phone number and address) in different categories of the website, and offer each business the opportunity to pay for enhancements to its listing. Using phpmydirectory, each business can add other information to their listing for a set fee. We would also provide an opportunity for the business to upgrade their listing to the top of the results page and add a category banner to stand out from the other businesses in the category.
3. Same as above, but instead of charging for the listing enhancements, we would allow each business to enhance its listing for free. Although this won’t generate revenue, it would add content to the website, which in turn would bring more visitors, giving businesses a reason to pay for upgrades and advertising.
4. Offer free listings throughout the website, and place Adsense banners and links throughout the site. While this would be the easiest thing to implement, it might cheapen the look and feel of the website.
After reviewing the options with my developer, I decided to choose option #3. I think this brings the best of all worlds to the website and will give businesses the most value. When people visit Lowell.com, I want them to find all the information they need. I want businesses to be encouraged to enhance their listings at no cost, and if it is free, there is no reason not to do it. This will give site visitors good information about many more businesses than if we had done it another way.
Down the road, we may work with affiliate companies for hotels and for tickets, but until traffic grows, I believe selling the advertising space to individual businesses is a better option. This option will also allow me to work directly with Lowell businesses, which should help me learn more about the city. Down the road, we may incorporate more user generated content opportunities (such as reviews), but for now, we want to start out small-ish and scale as needed.
***Updated by Elliot***
As we continue to invest in this website and our vision is developed, we may change the revenue model if it doesn’t work within our budget. At this point, everything is subject to change!

Breaking News: Oversee Acquires Moniker

According to this just distributed press release, Oversee.net has acquired domain registrar Moniker. I assume this is the news to which Rick Schwartz was referring this morning. More information about this can be found on Moniker’s homepage.
It will be interesting to see what will happen with the two major domain conferences (DomainFest and TRAFFIC) and their live auctions. Domain Sponsor (an Oversee.net company) is a founding partner of DomainFest, which features the SnapNames Live Auction from January 22-23, and TRAFFIC features the Moniker Live Auction on February 20 in Las Vegas.
I am sure we will soon learn more about how this news will impact the industry.

BIG News in the Domain Business

Unfortunately, I am not privy to what the news is, but if you didn’t already see, Rick Schwartz has announced that there is going to be some BIG news later today:

2008 is about to start with a BANG. A very BIG bang. What will it all mean? Stay tuned. This is a biggie! We are going to start the year off right.

Stay tuned…

Assista is Launched

Congrats to Sahar and team on the launch of Assista, the website he and Jeff Bhavnanie has been working on for a few years. The premise of Assista is that it helps you learn about a particular subject by tapping into other people’s questions. For example, I am currently researching Lowell, Massachusetts for my Lowell.com project. When I typed in “Lowell,” I saw questions that people had related to the city and to other Lowell-related topics (like Mike Lowell).
Overall, I think this is a fresh approach that will become popular, as it can help searchers expand the breadth of their initial search. While looking for one thing about a topic, many other questions can be seen, which could spawn new ideas and thoughts that may never have been had by the searcher.
Sahar and team has an aggressive goal of becoming one of the top 10 search sites in the next 18 months, and one of the top five in the next 3 years. These are lofty goals, but with the brains behind the project, it could be feasible. Here are a couple of suggestions I have:
1) As much as looks aren’t everything, the site doesn’t look great. I know this isn’t a major concern of Sahar’s at this point, but I think that will be key to going mainstream.
2) Speed is essential. While the results aren’t slow, they need to speed up. This will come in time.
3) It might be better if they frame the results from the “same window” page, that way the person can easily return to their results. For example, when the person clicks on “same window” for one of the results, they are taken to that site, but the Assista logo remains on the top of the page, so the person can return. I lack the tech knowledge/terminology – sorry.
4) When I got the results for a “Red Sox” search, it returned: 7336 questions / 267 exact matches / 7069 partial matches. There was no difference between 7336 questions / 267 exact matches. When I clicked both of those links, the same results showed up.
5) When I searched for something very specific, I didn’t receive any results. I searched, “Does salt increase cholesterol?” The search produced no results, but disappointingly, it didn’t make any alternate suggestions either.

Overall, I really like the concept quite a bit. I like how I can get a popup window to show me a preview of the results page. I think this is going to get pretty big!

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